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Wasaga Beach, Ont., to close main area of beach following Canada Day crowds

Wasaga Beach, Ont., has decided to close its main beach area -- the sand-covered portion of Beach Drive -- after recent crowds ignored coronavirus protocols.
Wasaga Beach, Ont., has decided to close its main beach area -- the sand-covered portion of Beach Drive -- after recent crowds ignored coronavirus protocols. Global News

Wasaga Beach, Ont., has decided to close its main beach area — the sand-covered portion of Beach Drive — by July 9 and to immediately reduce its beachfront municipal parking spaces by 50 per cent.

The decision comes one day after crowds reportedly flocked to the beach for Canada Day as the province of Ontario continues with its Phase 2 of reopening amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Read more: Sauble Beach closed, mayor hopes to keep visitors from GTA away

“Over the last two weekends, and especially yesterday on Canada Day, we saw human behaviour at its worst,” Wasaga Beach deputy fire chief Craig Williams said at a special council meeting Thursday.

“Many visitors displayed a reckless disregard for public health guidelines when ignoring physical distancing recommendations.”

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In a statement Thursday, Wasaga Beach Mayor Nina Bifolchi called the lack of physical distancing at the beachfront “totally unacceptable.”

“People know what the rules are and yet they clearly ignored them all for the sake of a day at the beach,” Bifolchi said.

“I was appalled by what I witnessed, and we are taking steps today to control what we can.”

Read more: Coronavirus: Ontario to allow short-term rentals again beginning Friday

Beyond the sand-covered portion of Beach Drive is the beach that’s part of Wasaga Beach Provincial Park, which is under the jurisdiction of Ontario Parks.

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At the special council meeting Thursday, council members asked Bifolchi to write the OPP to ask for additional police resources to help enforce provincial orders when addressing crowing at beach areas 1 and 2.

Coronavirus outbreak: Ontario to begin reopening provincial parks, conservation reserves for day use
Coronavirus outbreak: Ontario to begin reopening provincial parks, conservation reserves for day use

Council also asked the mayor to write a letter to Ontario Parks to ask it to take steps to close its beaches.

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“Our residents — rightly so — are worried these vast numbers of people descending on the beachfront put our town and our province at significant risk of a COVID-19 spike,” Bifolchi said.

“Police simply are not going to the beachfront and enforcing the emergency orders despite a request for assistance from our municipal law enforcement officers.”

Read more: ‘No evidence’ of increased COVID-19 cases linked to Trinity Bellwoods, Toronto Public Health says

Bifolchi said she’s written Ontario Premier Doug Ford about the influx of people in the community but that no meaningful action has been taken.

“While I commend the province for its overall handling of the pandemic, they have left our community, and other beachfront communities in the province, to essentially fend for themselves,” Bifolchi added.

“There is not a provincial strategy to deal with the people visiting these beach communities.”

Cobourg artist brings Canada Day cheer even with Victoria beach closed for the season
Cobourg artist brings Canada Day cheer even with Victoria beach closed for the season

 

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